Photo story: the London tradition of pie 'n' mash

There can be few institutions more synonymous with the East End of London than pie ’n’ mash shops.

By Rob Greig
photographs by Rob Greig
Published 10 Jun 2019, 18:00 BST
At M.Manze, on Tower Bridge Road
At M.Manze, on Tower Bridge Road
Photograph by Rob Greig

In the early 20th century, pie 'n' mash shops could be found all over this historically working-class area of the capital but, today, the tradition is being kept alive by only a handful of establishments. Many are still evocative of their golden era, with age-old recipes and art deco fittings, while their offering remains simple — mince-filled pies, mash and liquor (a type of parsley sauce). Some shops even still sell that other Cockney staple, eel, be it jellied or stewed.

Jellied eel, a Cockney staple
Photograph by Rob Greig
Sonny flattens the shortcrust with a 100-year-old mangle
Photograph by Rob Greig

F. Cooke on Broadway Market has been owned by the Cooke family for more than a century, although it’s soon to be sold. Born above the shop, and now in his 70s, Bob Cooke sits down for his daily morning pie; liquor, salt, white pepper and vinegar are essential. The pastry is freshly prepared each morning, then shaped into individual pie tins. Suet is used for the bases, shortcrust for the tops, which are cut using an aged automated press, then flattened, by Sonny, with the 100-year-old mangle.

The pastry is shaped into individual pie tins
Photograph by Rob Greig
Bob Cooke sits down for his daily morning pie
Photograph by Rob Greig

M.Manze, on Tower Bridge Road, sports the archetypal Pie ’n’ Mash aesthetic of tiled walls and marble surfaces. The shop was opened in 1902 by Michele Manze, grandfather of the present owners, and the recipes remain largely unchanged today — although the menu now includes veggie options and gravy is offered as an alternative to liquor. Traditionally, liquor was made from the stock of the stewed eels, but this practice has died out.

Gravy is offered as an alternative to liquor
Photograph by Rob Greig
The archetypal Pie 'n' Mash aesthetic of tiled walls and marble surfaces
Photograph by Rob Greig
Pie straight from the oven
Photograph by Rob Greig

G. Kelly’s, on Bethnal Green Road, has stuck to the age-old liquor-only rule, refusing to succumb to the modern idea of gravy with pie. Owner Matt is a traditionalist, and has only recently started selling hot drinks. The mash is scraped onto the side of the plate before the liquor is poured all over; for the full flavour experience, cut open the pie and douse it in vinegar. Over in Poplar, Maureen’s (below) also offers veggie options plus smaller pies, for those with delicate appetites.

G. Kelly's, on Bethnal Green Road
Photograph by Rob Greig
Liquor instead of gravy with pie
Photograph by Rob Greig

Published in issue 5 of National Geographic Traveller Food

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